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Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Recruiting outlook: 2014 and 2015

By Michael DiRocco

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp not only signed one of the nation’s top classes last week, he was able to address most of the Gators’ needs in the process.

UF added five receivers, seven defensive linemen, and four linebackers to address the Gators’ most critical areas heading into the 2013 season. But now it’s time to look ahead.

Where do the Gators need the most help in 2014 and 2015? In what areas should Muschamp concentrate while on the recruiting trail?

Here’s a breakdown of the top three areas of need in the next two signing classes:

Class of 2014

Da'Shawn Hand
A fierce pass rushing defensive end like Watch List member Da'Shawn Hand is a priority for Florida's 2014 class.
Defensive end: UF did a good job of addressing its issues at defensive tackles, but the Gators were unable to land the quicker, athletic defensive ends. UF signed Jordan Sherit, but the rest of the defensive line signees are, or are projected to become, tackles. The Gators missed out on Tashawn Bower, who committed to UF in the morning but eventually signed with LSU in the afternoon. The Gators have plenty of big, physical defensive ends, but they don’t have the cat-quick guy who can be a quarterback’s nightmare. Maybe one of the linebackers can develop into that, but UF needs to add some help at end in 2014. The top target will be Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge).

Offensive line: It might not seem to make sense that this is an area of need after signing five linemen in 2013, but Muschamp would like to have 15-17 offensive linemen on the roster. UF will have 14 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster in 2013 and three will graduate after the season. The Gators probably need to sign five or more in 2014 to beef up the numbers and keep it close to the number Muschamp would like.

Quarterback: Jeff Driskel will be going into his senior season and the Gators would have three backups on the roster (redshirt senior Tyler Murphy, redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg, and 2013 signee Max Staver), but UF needs to add another quarterback. Murphy and Mornhinweg appear to be career backups and it’s uncertain how quickly -- or even if -- Staver will develop. The Gators already have a commitment from Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day). While he says that’s solid, a lot can change in a year.

Class of 2015

Receiver: It’s unrealistic to expect all five of UF’s 2013 signees to become reliable players, so Florida could find itself facing another shortage of playmakers. The Gators won’t need 12 receivers on the roster, but eight to 10 is a realistic goal. That way you’re protected against transfers and attrition. Muschamp has established this fact about receivers in his first three classes: Little guys need not apply. The days of 5-foot-9, 170-pound receivers running routes for the Gators are over. UF’s targets will be 6-foot or taller.

Secondary: The Gators had a pretty good haul in 2013, highlighted by CB Vernon Hargreaves III, the nation’s No. 3 overall player. But UF has had a pretty good run of putting defensive backs in the NFL, and the Gators are bound to lose several early -- if Hargreaves goes, it would be after the 2015 season -- so it pays to keep restocking. Plus, defensive backs and linebackers form the backbone of special teams units, and the Gators have been among the nation’s best in special teams.

Linebacker: Heading into the 2013 season, the Gators don’t have a proven playmaker at the spot, but there’s plenty of young talent headlined by sophomore Antonio Morrison. Muschamp will sign several linebackers in 2014 but he’ll need to hit that spot pretty hard in 2015, especially at the buck position. It’s hard to find those hybrid players, especially with the size-speed combination that the position demands. UF has a lot of linebackers who can play inside and outside. It might also be time to try and find a couple of true middle linebackers.